“Routines involve repetition. Repetition involves predictability. Predictability involves stability. Stability involves security. Kids crave routines because routines make kids feel safe and secure.” – Maci Elkins
When I was a new mom I read “Baby Wise” which is a book about getting your little bundle on a schedule from the beginning. I quickly learned that that approach would NOT work for me. I am the messy mom. Laid back is my middle name. Just call me The Messy Laid Back Mom. Actually, don’t call me that.
The fact is we have had to be flexible because the past 3 years of our life has demanded it. On the other hand, as my babies get older and more independent I realize they require more routine to help them navigate through this unpredictable world. So this week I have been focusing on the topic of routine and structure, but sometimes (or in my case most of the time) that concept is easier said than done.
The other day my friend Tiffany posted this question-
What do you moms do with your kids after school? In my house, there’s just a lot of fussing, boredom, and people complaining about doing homework. Would appreciate your ideas. THANKS.
I already shared our morning and afternoon routine, but that isn’t even half the battle. You can schedule your day down to the minute but how do you get a rowdy bunch of little ones to go along with your plans? In Tiffany’s case this means 4 kids, including 2 year old twins and 4 and 6 year old boys. There is certainly no easy answer to that question, but I can tell you what has worked for me and share some other ideas that I found online.
For my family, it’s all about the timer/alarm. I have about a dozen alarms on my phone that go off throughout the day. These alarms are set for everything from just waking up to reminding me to go get the kids from school. All of those things that I listed yesterday are all alarms on my phone.
Granted, if my volume is down or my phone is in the other room I may not hear it, but I usually have my phone with me and these are activities I am anticipating anyway so the phone is more of a backup.
My oldest son made the system a little more fun last year by adding emojis and special ring tones. This was totally his own doing by the way. He also added more alarms that said “Too late” or “Really really late!!!!” with little screaming emojis… which I deleted. He knows us too well.
I love the alarm sound options. I use the ducks for bath time and the robot for when it’s time to leave (my mom mentioned that it sounds like it is saying “beep-ba-beep Time To Go” and now we sing along when it goes off. Also, the crickets are a great signal that it is time for bed. As a bonus the kids love it when they have a day off school and my alarms are still going off because they are set for every weekday. They love to laugh and joke about it, “Uh-oh. Time to go to school- NOOOO!” It’s a fun reminder of the responsibilities that they are off the hook for on that special day.
So the kids get some visual and auditory cues that times up and we are moving on to the next activity. It’s even a sensory tool in some ways because the phone vibrates and at times I have had to bring it up to my daughter with hearing loss to let her feel and see that the alarm was going off. Last year I wrote a post called The Magic Kitchen Timer . I talked about how the timer is a great alternative to just nagging and screaming because a machine is not an emotional being. It can’t be offended or manipulated. The routine becomes more about the clock and less about you just being mean. Your kids will still whine and protest, at least mine do. And you will still have to nag at times. For me though, I feel so much more prepared and armed when I have my timer to blame. Hey, the timer said times up, not me!
*I repeat, this has not eliminated all struggles in our home. Some days are better than others. Long term results have definitely been positive though or I would not have kept it up for the past three years .*
Here are a few links to some other schedule incentives that I thought looked promising.
Pill box reward tool by The Inclusive Church.
Having treats for every little thing might be overkill on a daily basis, but this system was designed for special needs kids in a church program and for those situations it seemed pretty cool.
For older kids you could just hang up a list. This printable schedule by Smashed Peas and Carrots reminded me a lot of our routine.
I thought this clock looked like a great idea to give kids a visual.
The fussing, boredom, and complaining that Tiffany mentioned is not in any way unusual and unfortunately somewhat inevitable, but hopefully these ideas can help.
Maybe you have a creative solution of your own. Please feel free to share it in the comments. It might be just the thing another mom needs to hear!
I have plenty of alarms on my phone for me but I never thought I’d having them for the boys everyday chores and stuff. Brilliant!!
Love this! I used to loathe routines because they became boring then after I had a child and became a “foster parent” to intellectually disabled adults where it became IMPERATIVE! The routines have helped substantially… still working on my toddler lol. I am now working on routines in the afternoon for toddler activities. Thanks for sharing!
I have alarms like that too. I slept through pick up time for the kids when I was pregnant with Bella. Ever since then from wake till sleep I have alarm reminders for everything. Especially picking up from school. They are fantastic.
I have a bunch of alarms, too! They are SO helpful! Not sure how I survived before I had a “timer” in my pocket!
I’m sort of anti-alarm or alarm anticipator if that makes any sense. I swear, I have made my body anticipate the alarm about to go off and wake up in a minute or two before. I think these are great ideas help keep everyone on schedule and on track! There are so many distractions throughout their days, I’m going to try this!